Bad smell lingers at police station

Mystery stink forces officers out of police station, as poll reveals how badly poor hygiene is hitting French economy

26 February 2014

A POLICE station had to be evacuated after a mysterious smell made it impossible for the 60 staff there to do any work.

For three weeks, officials at Berck, in Pas-de-Calais, have been plagued by a pestilential pong, which has caused itchy eyes, sore throats, runny noses and headaches.

Police union representative Fabrice Kazmierzak said: "The air inside smells of ammonia and sulphur.

“A lady who came in lost her voice in quarter of an hour."

Firefighters have searched the building daily, and biological tests have been carried out, but nobody can explain where the stink has come from.

Now, after officers complained to health officials, the prefecture has closed the building until further notice.

Mr Kazmierzak said: “We should be able to use two rooms at the front of the building, and prefabricated buildings will be installed in the station courtyard.”

News of the malodorous police problem comes as a survey revealed that unhygienic conditions in offices cost the French economy an estimated €14.5bn last year.

According to the study, poor hygiene is responsible for one day’s sick leave for every employee, while an estimated 2.3 days every year are lost to workers cleaning or finding a clean toilet.

The simple act of washing their hands after a toilet trip is beyond 49% of French people, the survey found.

Virginia Mallet, head of analysis at hygiene company Initial France, said: “Some in France, find it hard to accept that poor hygiene is related to disease.

“The act of washing hands after going to the toilet is automatic in some countries, while in France we always underestimate this gesture.

"All companies can improve results by attaching more importance to hygiene. But workers must also play their part.”

Ironically, health workers - along with real estate agents - are the worst offenders, followed closely by those working in banks and schools.

Men are more concerned about hygiene at work, the study conducted by Rentokil Initial and the Centre for Economics and Business Research found. A total of 65% thought better sanitary conditions would improve their job satisfaction, compared to 53% of women.

The effects of poor workplace hygiene are devastating for the French economy. In 2013, the equivalent to 0.7% of GDP or 18% of public sector wages were lost.

Photo:Frédéric Bisson

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